- The Kohen Gadol  - part 1

The Kohen Gadol  - part 1

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The Kohen Gadol  - part 1

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כֹּהֵן גָדוֹל  / The Kohen Gadol       Part 1

by Esther Livingstone

(HKHVB = Hilchos Klei HaMikdash Vehaovdim Bo)


  1. Who appoints the Kohen Gadol/ כֹּהֵן גָדוֹל (כּ״ג)?

  2. What two rituals are done during the initiation process of the כּ״ג?

  3. What is the procedure for the initiation of the כּ״ג with the eight special garments, and with the anointing oil?

  4. What is the case if there is no anointing oil?

  5. What is the role of the segan/ סְגַן?

  6. What is a katikolin/ קָתֵיקוֹלִין?

  7. If a כּ״ג dies, does his son inherit this position?

  8. What is a כֹּהֵן מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה / Priest anointed to lead the nation in war? Is this position hereditary?

  9.  How many garments does this ֹכֹּהֵן wear when he leads the people in war?  And how many garments would he wear later on, when serving in the Beis Hamikdash?

  10.   How should the כֹּהֵן גָדוֹל act /not act with the people at large?

  11.  How should the כּ״ג be regarded by other members of Bnei Yisrael?

  12.   What is the procedure for mourning, if one of the immediate relatives of the כּ״ג passes away?

  13.  Does the כּ״ג tear his garments, as do other Kohanim, when a close relative passes away?

  14.   May the   כּ״ג let his hair grow long while he is in mourning for a close relative?

  15.   What is the simple meaning of the pasuk “From the sanctuary, he shall not depart”-“ וּמִן־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ֙ לֹ֣א יֵצֵ֔א “ (Vayikra 21:12)?

  16.   What are the 3 names of the Chamber of the   כּ״ג in the Beis HaMikdash?

  17.   Why was it called by the latter 2 names?

  18.  How many kohanim support the כּ״ג when he enters the Heichal to prostrate himself?

  19.  When may the כּ״ג offer the ketores or a korban?

  20.   Is the כּ״ג allowed to marry more than one wife?

  21.   Is the כּ״ג limited in where he may live?


  1. The Sanhedrin/ High Court of 71 judges appoint the Kohen Gadol. (HKHVB 4:15)

  2. The כּ״ג is clothed in the garments of the High Priest, and is anointed with the anointing oil. (Vayikra 21:10) (HKHVB  4:12)

  1. The כּ״ג puts on the eight special garments, and later on removes them.  He proceeds to repeat this for seven consecutive days.  He is also anointed with the oil for seven consecutive days.  (HKHVB 4:13)

  2. If there is no anointing oil, then the כּ״ג is initiated into office only through wearing the eight garments of the  כּ״ג.  This is based on Vayikra 21:10 -  וְהַכֹּהֵן֩ הַגָּד֨וֹל מֵאֶחָ֜יו אֲֽשֶׁר־יוּצַ֥ק עַל־רֹאשׁ֣וֹ

                                                       ... אֶת־יָד֔וֹ לִלְבֹּ֖שׁ אֶת־הַבְּגָדִ֑ים  וּמִלֵּ֣א  שֶׁ֤מֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה֙ The implication here is that just as the כּ״ג is initiated with the oil, so too can be initiated only with the garments. (HKHVB 4:12).  This, in fact, was the situation in the latter years of the Bayis Rishon, and throughout the years of the Bayis Sheini. (HKHVB 1:8)

  1. The segan/ סְגַן serves the  כּ״גlike a viceroy.  He stands at his right- hand side at all times, as a sign of honour.  All the other Kohanim are under his authority as well.  (HKHVB 4:16)

  2. Katikolin/ קָתֵיקוֹלִין are kohanim appointed to serve the segan, just as the segan serves the כּ״ג. There are at least two of them appointed.  (HKHVB 4:17)

  3. In Devarim 17:20, in reference to a king, it says “He and his descendents in the midst of Israel...”   And it is from here that we learn that kingship is inherited!  This actually applies to any office amidst the Jewish people, provided the descendent is equivalent to the deceased in the fear of G-d, even if he is not comparable in wisdom. (HKHVB 4:20)

  4.  This is the כֹּהֵן appointed to lead the nation in a war.  This appointment is based on holiness, and it is not transferred by inheritance.  Indeed the position of כֹּהֵן גָדוֹל would also not be transferred by inheritance -were there not a specific passuk instructing us to do so. (HKHVB  4:21-  Chasam Sofer & Moznaim notes)

  5. This kohen wears the 8 garments of the  כּ״ג when he leads the people in war (Radbaz, Kessef Mishneh).  But although he was anointed, he is not given the status of the כֹּהֵן גָדוֹל and only wears the 4 garments of an ordinary Kohen when later serving in the Beis HaMikdash. (HKHVB  4 :21)

  6.  The כֹּהֵן גָדוֹל must act with dignity, and he should not act frivolously with the people at large.  Examples of this are:  He should not go to a public feast, nor should others see him having his hair cut, in the bathhouse etc. (HKHVB 5:3)

  7.  The Torah says “הַכֹּהֵן הַגָדוֹל מֵאֶחַיו  וְ“-“and the kohen greater than his brethren”- concerning the כּ״ג .  These words come to teach us that he is to be regarded with great honour. (Vayikra 21:10) (HKHVB 5:3)

  8.  The  כּ״גdoes not go out to the funeral procession, nor does he leave from the entrance of this home.  Rather, all the nation come to his home to comfort him, while he stands with the segan on his right, and the Rosh Beis Av/head of the clan serving that week- standing  to his left.  (HKHVB 5:5)

  9.   No he doesn’t, as the Torah says “He shall not rend his garments”-   

וּבגדיו לא יִפְרֹם”.  He is allowed though, to tear his own personal garments.  (Vayikra 21:10). (HKHVB 5:6)

  1.   No, as he many never allow his hair to grow long, as it says in Vayikra 21:10 “He shall not allow (the hair of) his head to grow long.”- “ רֹאשׁוֹ לֹא יִפְרָע.”  Rather, he is meant to have his hair cut every Friday.  (וְרֹאשָׁם֙ לֹ֣א יְגַלֵּ֔חוּ וּפֶ֖רַע לֹ֣א יְשַׁלֵּ֑חוּ כָּס֥וֹם יִכְסְמ֖וּ אֶת־רָאשֵׁיהֶֽם  -“... They shall keep their heads trimmed.” -Yechezkel 44:20)  (HKHVB 5:6)

  2.   It means- That the glory of the כּ״ג would be to remain in the Mikdash the entire day, and only go to his home at night or for an hour or two during the day. (HKHVB 5:7).  The halachik meaning of the pasuk is that he should not depart in the middle of his service. (Moznaim p.170)

  3.  The names are: The Chamber of the Kohen Gadol; The Chamber of the Parhedrin;  or The Wooden Chamber.   (HBHVB 5:7 & Hilchos Beis Habechira 5:17)

  4.    Parhedrin means officer of the king; and this name was given to this chamber in the days of Bayis Sheini,  when this office was purchased from the king at a high price.(Yoma 8b)   It was called The Wooden Chamber either because it was used to store wood, or because it had wooden paneling. (Moznaim p 88)

  5. Three kohanim- one on his right side, one on his left side, and one behind him holding the jewels of the ephod. (HBHVB-5:11)

  6.   The כּ״ג does not need to participate in the lottery, but may offer the ketores and any korban whenever he desired to.  (HBHVB 5:12)

  7.  No, he isn’t allowed to marry more than one wife.  (HKHVB 5:10)

  8.  Yes- his home should be in Yerushalayim, and he should never depart from there! (HKHVB 5:7)

We will discuss the garments of the כּ״ג in the next segment.



Sefer Ha’Avodah- Rambam- With commentary by Rav Eliyahu  

Touger- Pub-Moznaim -2007


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